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Anathema II - Trust is only dangerous

By S.L. Koss
Page 3 of 15

Avon smiled to himself, wondering if he should interfere, but if the pilot opened his mouth, they would no doubt be without a pilot. "Commander Tarsia, isn't it? At the risk of trying to read Tarrant's mind, I do believe he means to determine how long you've been here and whether your engines are operational, ignore him." Avon walked casually around the nose of the ship toward Tarsia. As the wind was blowing from the other side of the craft, he could feel the heat come off the ship, accomplishing what Tarrant had attempted without touching the craft.

"It's Alterran built, isn't it?" Tarrant babbled on. "I've flown one of these before, but they have a very short range in space. There must be a mother ship or base somewhere fairly close."

Tarsia lowered his weapon, favoring Tarrant with a warning glare. He sprang lightly from the wing of the ship to stand before Avon, saluting solemnly, never letting Tarrant out of is field of vision.

Unsure whether returning the gesture would mean he was subservient to the Commander, Avon decided it was better to ignore it. "Where is Kai?" He asked simply.

Tarsia gestured toward the line of smoking rubble behind them, which was where the cave system the boy and his mother had lived in had stood. Before Avon could look away, the Commander's vibrant blue eyes locked on his. *The boy was in the tunnels when they collapsed. The she-tiger dug him out, but an earthquake brought the face of the cliffs down on her. I told him it would not serve honor to leave her for the scavengers and sent him back for the pelt, it is quite valuable. He's badly shaken over the whole thing.*

Speaking softly, while still eyeing Tarrant, he said. "The boy had intended to be here when you came, that's why I waited. I must leave. My mission was to fly over and assess the damage down here, the carrier is due to return for me. Stay within the shadow of the moon and the sensors shall not pick up your ship amidst the ion interference." He turned to depress a panel in the side of the ship, opening the cockpit. He proceeded to climb in.

Avon turned to him, stepping back as the engines began to ignite themselves. "Is there nothing you can do for him? He can't stay here, that's clear, but he is no safer with me, he belongs with his mother."

"I shall do what I can." Tarsia replied simply. "The woman belongs to him now, she will not know you or him. Her thoughts are his, her feeling his. Only if it is against her will can the First One do anything about it." He started up the final flight sequence as everyone stood well away from the ship, it rose gracefully to head for the clouds hanging low overhead.

"What do we do now, wait?" Tarrant complained.

"He knows we're here, he'll be back as soon as he finished." Avon said, settling on a rock out of the wind.

"Finished with what?" Cally asked.

"Skinning a cat." Avon said calmly.

Tarrant paced about pensively, watching carefully the surrounding smoking fields and heaped rubble. There was scarce cover in the area and he felt he could relax, besides, what threat could a 4-year-old pose? He gasped suddenly, trying not to lose his balance as something hit him from behind. The cold hardness of a knife blade rested at his throat. Avon watched, bemused.

After a warning growl, Kai hissed, shifting his position to pin Tarrant's arms behind him. "Who are you, then?" He said quietly, putting all the threat he possessed into his voice.

Tarrant was still trying to keep his feet. Though the child weight was very probably close to 50 pounds, he had his legs firmly wrapped around Tarrant's waist and he could feel the points of his claws in his arm.

Avon got up casually. "Leave him be, Kai, that's my pilot, I might just need him yet."

Kai dropped reluctantly to the ground, folding into a crouch, leveling his knife defiantly. "Doesn't look like much, his eyes are not nearly fast enough, or maybe it's his brain. Look at me." He stretched out a hand as Tarrant's gaze met his obediently. Kai held his eyes for a moment before standing up and sheathing his knife in his boot. "He has potential, learns fast and has had a fair amount of experience, but he's impulsive, but he lies well. I'd keep any eye on him if I were you. Still, he'd have to make a better pilot than a female smuggler, not much though."

Avon crossed to stand beside the boy, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Del Tarrant, Kai Avon. Why don't the two of you go back up, we'll be up shortly."

Cally nodded, raising her bracelet. Kai rubbed the tears and blood from his eyes as he turned to Avon.

"You did not think I would come?" Avon asked softly.

"Tarsia said the Liberator was in the sector. I had my doubts, but I realized you would know my only other recourse would have been Novacorps and you don't want them to know I exist. You have already gone to great lengths to erase my existence from any Federation database." Furious and long ignored tears flowed down his young face.

"Believe me, you don't want them to know about your either. Julian would be even more disappointed in you than he was in me." Avon handed him a bracelet as the wind whipped ominously.

"Maybe." Kai said noncomittally. "Just what is it he wanted from you that you could not give him?"

"Everything." Avon's eyes took on a particularly deep shade of black. It was painfully clear that conversation on the subject would not continue. "What happened down here?" He asked.

Snapping the bracelet around is all too thin wrist, Kai took an uncertain breath, taking the solidness of Avon's presence to keep him anchored. "I was out in the fields hunting when the call to evacuate came. By the time I got back to the caves, no one was there. No one was anywhere. I grabbed everything I could think of and tried to get out, but the bombing had already begun. The tunnel collapsed and I had barely enough air to last until her mother dug me out." He shut his eyes against the memories of what had happened next, wiping his face with shaking hands. Kai looked at Avon with pleading and frightened eyes.

"As long as you understand things are different up there and you will have to learn to blend in with them for a while anyway. No reading anyone without permission" Avon said sternly. "Are you sure the Star Commander has your mother?"

"Yeah." Kai grinned ironically, taking from his pocket an arrow similar to the one his mother had taken from Avon's chest months ago, fletched with crimson and gold feathers. "He left me a present just so I would know he had been there. I'd weave it into my tail if I had any of it left."

"And what would that mean?" Avon knew well that every move, every nuance of a Felinian was meant to express more than what it seemed to.

" I can not let him have her, she does not want it, I know she doesn't!"

"You have put me in a difficult place, but I shall help you find her. Beyond that, I can promise nothing."

"I understand, as long as the Auron does not try to read me. But, what if I can't go back to her? What will you do with me?" He turned to face Avon, daring him to abandon him on the spot rather than later.

Avon understood particularly well the fear and uncertainty in the boy's young eyes. He knew there has been at time when he had known exactly what Kai felt, but he could not and certainly would not dredge the memories from their safe hiding place. Though he would give them no recognition, they screamed for his attention anyway, the nightmares tonight would be particularly difficult, but he could fix that easier than he could reassure the boy in front of him. "I don't really know, Kai. I will not abandon you, it is my responsibility to make sure you're safe. I don't take that lightly and I don't break my promises." Despite the fact he had made promises to the boy's mother under less than rational circumstances, he would keep his word nonetheless. It was not much, but all he had to offer the child at present.

Kai watched him with silent, but trusting eyes. He knew better, but at this point really had no choice in the matter. His mind raged at the helplessness he felt. The helplessness grew to an irrational fear as he emerged in the teleport bay. The others stood on the stairs at the other side of the room, staring at him incomprehensibly. His ears were assaulted by a myriad of sounds and mechanical noises, almost deafening him. Determined to find the source and meaning of each sound, he backed away from the teleport and disappeared up one of the corridors.

Cally turned to Avon as he casually took off his bracelet and headed for the flight deck. "Aren't you going to go after him?"

"He'll figure things out by himself, just leave him alone." Avon said, glancing uncertainly up the corridor the child had disappeared into.

Several hours passed on the flight deck without the slightest hint of where the boy had gone off to. Avon had decided to stay in their present position behind Dartine's second moon, they were shielded from the ion storms on the planet below and as far as he could tell, the interference meant they would not be seen by any craft in the vicinity, including any wandering Federation craft. Everyone went about the seemingly endless chore of manual repairs while Tarrant finished up his training simulations. No one said a word to Avon, who was restlessly running through various files looking for what he had no idea of.

/Information./

Everyone's head snapped up at once, they had come to rely on the quiet of the past few hours. "What is it Zen?" Avon snapped.

/A ship has entered the Dartine system and is approaching on vector 23492.7. They would appear to be slowing for orbital approach./

"Put it on the screen Zen." Vila said, glad to have a break from the boring routine of repairs.

"Who are they, Zen?" Cally asked, checking the communications channel.

The image of large craft painted brightly in red and gold appeared on the main screen, as it approached on of Dartine's other moons, a small craft left the surface to join the larger ship.

/Markings would appear to indicate it is a ship used by the Felinian security forces./

"That's an Alterran heavy cruiser." Tarrant offered authoritatively. "I knew there had to be one about with a short range craft on the surface."


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